Talks fail to yield accord at YSU

By Robert Guttersohn


Talks are expected to resume Monday between the Youngstown State University administration and faculty union leaders.

The two sides met for hours Friday but could not reach an agreement.

The university’s board of trustees meet Tuesday.

YSU spokesman Ron Cole would not say whether the trustees will vote to impose the contract.

In considering the current and future financial situation, “all options are on the table,” he said.

Stan Guzell, the YSU Ohio Education Association’s chief negotiator, said he believed the university will impose its last, best offer as a contract.

“When people negotiate, they look for ways to find a solution,” Guzell said. “But [the administration] just keeps saying, ‘We’re holding. We’re holding. We’re holding.’”

Both sides say there are still several areas of disagreement, but health insurance was the issue debated most Friday.

YSU-OEA President Julia Gergits said the union is in “concessionary mode” and understands it will be paying more in health insurance, but the university would not specify premium costs for years two and three of the contract.

“That’s not how a contracts works,” she said. “We understand that the costs will go up, but we would like to see how much we’ll be paying.”

Cole would not go into detail on the negotiating process.

“The board has made it very clear the last best offer is the bottom line for the university,” Cole said.

Cole said union proposals have exceeded the university’s stated bottom line for cuts by more than $1 million. The union maintained it has conceded $1 million in health-care costs alone.

In the university’s offer, faculty members would pay 10 percent of the cost of health-insurance premiums. That amount would increase to 12 percent in the second year and 15 percent in the contract’s third year.

Under the old contract, which expired Aug. 17, members paid 1.5 percent of their salaries for a family-plan health insurance and 0.75 percent for a single plan.

To Gergits, the health-care negotiation was key to moving the negotiations forward.

“We felt if we had progress in one place and then we could use it to make progress in the other areas,” Gergits said.

Faculty members have worked more than three weeks without a contract. The two sides began talks at 10 a.m. Friday at Cushaw Hall, a week after talks also ended with no agreement.

A fact finder’s report issued in August called for raises of 0 percent, 1 percent and 2 percent and a smaller reduction in summer-school pay. The union accepted the report, but YSU trustees rejected it.

Two weeks ago, the union rejected the university’s last best offer of 0 percent, 0 percent and 2 percent in raises and a reduction in summer pay from 3.75 percent of nine-month salary per credit hour to 3 percent salary per credit hour.

The union rejected the university’s offer and said its members would strike. Hours later, the union backtracked and said it would not strike and, instead, return to the bargaining table. That allowed the semester to begin on schedule Aug. 29 as well as the distribution of student financial aid.

The union would not say if members would vote to strike if the university imposed the contract.

“We believe there is still room for more talks,” Guzell said.

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